Profile: Legend Kombucha, Verona, Italy
In 2018, Stefano Zamboni visited a cousin in California, tried kombucha, and on returning to Italy, founded Legend Kombucha in 2020 in his hometown of Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona and the romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.
In fact, he was so impressed by his visit to California and Oregon that he named his first SCOBY ‘West Coast’ after the region. He aims to introduce Italy to the authentic kombucha he had enjoyed in the States.
The first time I heard about kombucha and was able to taste it was in California, a few years ago now. They drank it all the time and everyone kept telling me how good it was and how cool it was. Well, at the beginning I wasn’t convinced at all, a fermented drink, a little acidic and healthy, what good could it hide? In reality I was very wrong, with time and habit I fell more and more in love with kombucha, its goodness and how good it made me feel. So much in love that then, upon returning to Italy and after some training with the best European brewers, I started thinking about founding my own brewery and then… everything else is legend!
He is dedicated to authenticity. The company logo is based on the Chinese ‘chop’– the seal used to authenticate documents. “This is why the chop is the symbol of Legend Kombucha: different from everyone else and true to itself.”
He distributes to retail outlets across Italy, with 60% of the sales in the northern region, 30% in the center, and 10% in the less developed south. His customers span the age range, many trying it for the first time in farmers’ markets, yoga studios, and other locations. Echoing the strategy of Kelly Gasink & Jill Burns of Austin Cocktails, he firmly believes that getting in front of customers is the best use of his time.
Whenever there’s the possibility to meet people and let them try kombucha, I’m there. Whenever and wherever there are people, if it’s five or a hundred, I take time to meet people, let them taste the product, help them appreciate it, and explain about it. I’m out every weekend at fairs and festivals, and even though it’s exhausting, I make the effort. It’s the only way to spread kombucha love.
They also sell online, adding cans to enable easier shipping. Bottles outsell cans 60/40 in sales to cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and pubs. But e-commerce sales are 80% cans.
He anticipates a spike in sales in 2024, which he hopes will be “the summer of kombucha in Italy,” and hopes there will be a similar growth to that seen in Spain. The challenge is educating consumers about the superiority of his authentic kombucha vs. some of the imported “shady kombucha.”
There are close to a dozen unique flavors, with names inspired by the Beatles and, of course, Shakespeare:
- ORIGINAL BLEND: Obtained from the natural fermentation of a blend of black tea and three different varieties of green tea, the Original Blend has strong but delicate flavors and aromas and represents the original taste of traditional Kombucha without exaggerated acetic notes.
- GINGER BOMB: The spiciness of ginger and the citrus of lemon: an explosion of flavor for a provocative and refreshing Kombucha.
- SGT. PEPPER’S MINT: A tornado of freshness for a thirst-quenching and refreshing Kombucha: “We hope you will enjoy the show.”
- STRAWBERRY FIELDS: The scent and sweetness of memories and strawberries: Strawberry Fields, spring in a bottle. The citric notes of lime juice and hibiscus blend perfectly with the sweetness of strawberries, making it the perfect Kombucha for a regenerating break.
- MOCKITO: Fresh mint, lime juice, and you are immediately transported to a beach. For this kombucha, we were inspired by the famous Mojito, a cocktail loved all over the world. The aroma of the lime, together with the hints of mint, make us forget that this is just a “mock” version of the original.
- PEACH ONE: Peach and Basil makes a kombucha that tastes like summer. Who said basil only goes well with tomatoes? It’s paired with cold-pressed peach juice.
- SPECIALITY COFFEE: A crazy collaboration with the guys from Nowhere café Milan. Noah Tunja coffee from Colombia made this Coffee Kombucha enjoyable for every palate.
- ROMEO and JULIET: The sweetness of pineapple, passion fruit and a purple color — the perfect ingredients to fall in love with Romeo & Juliet kombucha!
- KOMBUCHA DEL L’ORTO: A Mediterranean kombucha with the herbs and aromas characteristic of the gardens of this area. The floral notes of the original kombucha combine with the balsamic and aromatic hints of infused herbs: sage, and rosemary.
- POME GRANDE: The “sweet and sour” notes of pomegranate juice give a strong and refined character to Pome Granade.
- SUN DIA: The sweetness of watermelon and the aroma of lavender: a delicate and unique combination for a refreshing and tasty Kombucha.
The podcast begins with Stefano asking me questions about the global kombucha market since he plans to write a book introducing Italians to ‘booch. Scroll forward to 6:30 to hear the story of Legend kombucha.